Southern California Nabs Federal Funds to Fix Crumbling Beaches

ENCINITAS, Calif. (CN) – Standing at the entrance to the Encinitas, California, beach where three women from one family were killed last year when a bluff collapsed on them, Rep. Mike Levin said Friday $400,000 in federal funding has been allocated to fix collapsing coastal cliffs in Southern California.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will allocate $400,000 this year in federal funding for the Planning, Engineering & Design (PED) phase of the Encinitas-Solana Beach Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Project. It will also allocate another $505,000 for the PED phase of the San Clemente Shoreline Project.

U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., announces $400,000 in federal funding to fix crumbling SoCal beach bluffs at the entrance to Grandview Beach in Encinitas, California, where, in August 2019, three women from one family died during a bluff collapse. (Bianca Bruno / CNS)

The projects will stabilize bluffs that erode during storms from sea-level rise. Sand levels will also be replenished as part of the projects.

Levin, a freshman Democrat running for re-election, said that now federal dollars have been secured, local dollars for the project which have been sitting in Encinitas and Solana Beach city coffers for 17 years can also be used.

An additional $1.5 million in federal funding will be needed in the next couple years to complete the PED phase before construction can begin, Levin said, noting once the phase is complete he’ll “aggressively pursue” federal approval to begin construction.

The entire project is expected to cost $30 million to complete over the next five or so years, $20 million of it coming from federal funds. Stabilizing cliffs in Southern California is expected to cost $130 million over the next 50 years, Levin said Friday.

But the funding didn’t come until one family faced a tragedy of losing three family members this past August when a bluff collapsed at Grandview Beach in Encinitas.

Dr. Pat Davis, who lost his wife Julie Davis, daughter Annie Clave and sister-in-law Elizabeth Cox in the collapse was teary Friday, telling reporters it was only the second time he’d been to the beach since the accident.

He attended the President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address as Levin’s guest last month to highlight the need for federal funds to be allocated to bluff stabilization in California. A few days later, Levin said he received word the funding had been secured.

Davis said sand replenishment is a good step to increase beach safety but that more needs to be done.

“Global warming and storm tides are only going to get worse in our area here,” Davis said, noting numerous bluffs have collapsed since his family members were killed.

He suggests increasing safety on beaches surrounded by coastal bluffs by educating the public and lifeguards that a safe distance from the cliffs is 40 feet; providing signs that note deaths; closing beaches during high tides; and creating safe zones or barriers of 100 feet on either side of lifeguard towers.

Solana Beach Mayor Jewel Edson said beach safety will continue to be a problem in Southern California due to climate change.

“As a result of climate change, coastal cities like ours are experiencing stronger storm swells and erosion. Protecting beachgoers and property along the coast will continue to be a top priority,” Edson said.

In an interview, Edson said she went to Washington in 2017 on a trip dubbed “seeking sand dollars” to secure federal funding to address coastal bluff collapse. She said California’s representatives didn’t do anything even though the Army Corps of Engineers had identified the project more than a decade ago.

“I believe it’s unfortunate the tragedy may have been a catalyst to move it forward faster,” Edson said.

In a statement by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, she said $4 million has been secured for shoreline protection projects in this year’s funding bill.

“Southern California families should be able to enjoy the beach free of the fear cliffs could collapse. We’ll do all we can to make sure that happens,” Feinstein said.

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